a freelancer

What is a freelancer?

reading time: 5min | # principals #collaborating with freelancers | September 20, 2021 | Daan De Bock

Freelancing is becoming increasingly popular. Not only in Belgium but worldwide we see the number of freelancers increasing. We notice, however, that there is still a lot of doubt about what the term "freelance" exactly means. This is because until today there is no specific freelance status exists in Belgian law. Therefore, we went in search of a correct definition for you, supplemented with some additional information, so that you never have to doubt again.

Our search for the perfect definition starts where many a search begins: the dictionary. Van Dale Defines freelance as: ' free-lance (adverb) - freelance working without employment'. Unfortunately, this definition is rather sketchy and we are looking for a more nuanced description. Better is the description of business organization UNIZO:"A freelancer is an entrepreneur without staff who provides business services primarily, but not exclusively, in a business-to-business (b2b) context and on the basis of temporary contracts, assignments or projects."

This definition also enjoys a lot of praise from us because it nicely summarizes the core ideas in the concept of freelancing. Nevertheless, it is necessary to add some nuances to this summary. In particular, we feel that there are elements missing from the definition. First, it is important to mention that "an entrepreneur" is a self-employed person with his own VAT number registered with the Crossroads Bank of Enterprises. Secondly, the notion of duration for the freelancer itself is also missing. A freelancer can choose to become self-employed in main occupation but it is also possible to freelance in secondary occupation.

Thus, we propose the following definition:

What is a freelancer?A freelancer is an entrepreneur, registered with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises who has his or her own VAT number and has no employees, who provides business services mainly, but not exclusively, in a business-to-business (b2b) context, both as a secondary and principal professional and on the basis of temporary contracts, assignments or projects."

What about synonyms?

If the term freelancer wasn't entirely clear to you yet, we touched on it above. However, there are some other terms that are often used as synonyms of "freelancer. Are these terms effectively synonyms of each other or do they each have a different meaning anyway? Here's an overview.

  • Independent contractor
    abbreviation of: self-employed without personnel (sb. who works as an entrepreneur without employing others)
  • Consultant
    who professionally advises companies
  • Interim Manager

An interim manager is someone hired temporarily to perform certain (management) tasks within an organization. This often involves someone who is not employed by the company and operates at the management or executive level. Thus, ZZP'er and Freelancer can be considered synonyms. However, the term ZZP is mainly used in the Netherlands while Freelancer is the common term in Belgium. Consultants and Interim Managers are not necessarily freelancers, they can also be permanently employed by the company in question.


Freelancer vs employee

Sometimes it is interesting to look at what something is not to write a definition. A freelancer is not an employee. So how do they differ?
An employee works under the authority and supervision of a boss, with a freelancer this is not the case. A freelancer acts as a supplier so there is no hierarchical relationship. Moreover, there is no permanent employment contract but a freelancer goes to work for different companies under the form of a contract.

Where as an employee you get a monthly gross salary and are entitled to a guaranteed monthly salary in case of illness, a 13e month and paid holidays, as a freelancer you are only rewarded for the services you provide. What rate is linked to this, the client and freelancer mutually agree on a contract. This rate is not paid as salary, but is done through an invoice paid by the client.

Social contributions a freelancer pays himself, something that with an employee is paid by the boss. As a client, this implies that there are far fewer 'additional costs' associated with working with a freelancer than hiring someone permanently. You only pay for the services rendered and include these costs under the heading '440. Suppliers'.

Courtesy of Naomi Van Obbergen and Amy Messely


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